on 22 May 2011
Excellent book for the person who is inquisitve about Mahler and wants to know what all the fuss is about, well-written narrative that introduces all the salient points about Mahler's life and the impact it had upon his music. For an experienced Mahlerian, it nicely condenses all the recent research that has been done and gives a thorough appraisal of the phenomenon of Mahler and his music and why it has such impact for classical music today.
For many music lovers and concert-goers, Mahler's music is challenging, not only in its length but in its complexity. Mahler himself said that a symphony should include everything, the whole world and most of his do but not everyone can cope with the expansive and all-embracing.
His 1888/89 Second Symphony, known as the "Resurrection" symphony, with its expanded orchestra and full choir, always leaves me uplifted, inspired and wanting more but at a loss to explain in detail. Johnson's well-illustrated book with its two study CDs provides easy journeys into the complexities in language accessible to the non-musician but it does not demistify. Its structure makes it simple to dip in and the CDs are well produced, making it a very valuable addition to any Mahler library.
For those interested in Mahler, I also recommend these DVDs to accompany it:
Ken Russell's "Mahler"
Michael Tilson Thomas's "Keeping Score - Mahler"
Leonard Bernstein's "Little Drummer Boy".
on 5 July 2011
I love Mahler but when I listened to him it was mainly to his haunting Adagios and the wonderful Adagietto from Symphony No 5. Stephen Johnson's insightful and delightfully written book makes one realise there is so much more to explore, understand and enjoy and now I'm really marvelling at those spikey scherzos and spending hours really getting deeply into whole works. Quite transforming.
The author's clear and insightful notes on each of Mahler's works really takes you deep into the heart of this fascinating composer and the 2 CDs are a delight with so much wonderful music to tempt you to listen more (and more attentively) and explore further. Mahler's songs have been a revelation - what ravishing sounds and searching themes - Kindertotenlieder especially are profoundly moving.
The only downside to this marvellous book is that I now can't stop myself from buying yet more Mahler CDs!
on 19 March 2014
I agree with the generally positive reviews for this book. But an added bonus is that purchase also provides online access to lots of free Mahler from the Naxos download site. You get full performances of most of the symphonies, plus songs.Quality is a bit variable, but some of the symphonies are very good.
I have read a few books on the life of Gustav Mahler, one of my favourite composers whose works I became familiar with during the late 1960s thanks to the recordings on CBS by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. I found this book an interesting read; certainly explores the reasoning behind many of his great symphonies, his relationship with the music establishment in Vienna and New York. What I also found interesting is that the book explores his relationship with his wife, Alma, who herself was an enigma. My only quibble is that the ending seemed a little rushed, there was very little detail about his final illness and death. Perhaps, the author wanted to concentrate more on the music of Mahler, rather than his personality. Nevertheless, it is a great read, and worth a purchase, particularly when two CDs containing recordings of Mahler's music, (only chunks though) accompany the book which are worth listening to.